Peace in the Storm
Topic: Biblical Verse: Mark 4:35–4:41
The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
June 23-24, 2018
“Peace in the Storm”
With the summer season now upon us, summer storms with thunder, lightning, and heavy downpours are also in season. We experienced one of these this past week on Tuesday afternoon. Our family dog, a miniature Schnauzer named Dixie, is not a fan of these storms and will usually run upstairs to take refuge in our youngest daughter’s room. That, or we throw a blanket over her on the couch where she is shivering with fear. That is how she finds peace in the storm. In today’s Gospel lesson, the disciples find themselves caught in a storm while they are in a boat on the Sea of Galilee. It is one thing to experience a storm with lashing winds, thunder, lightning, and driving rain on land, but it is something else entirely to be out on the open water when this happens. There, the danger is magnified exponentially under these conditions. Where do we find peace in the midst of the storm? Only in the strength and power of the One whom even wind and wave must obey, and at whose command, “Peace! Be still!” (Mark 4:39a), the forces of nature must submit. This is Jesus, the Son of God, our Savior. In him alone do we find peace in the storm. That becomes the theme for preaching today. May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word for Jesus’ sake.
The Sea of Galilee is actually not a sea at all, but a fresh water lake nearly eight miles wide by thirteen miles long. It provides much of the drinking water for Israeli people today. Called by various names: the Sea of Kinnereth (Numbers 34:11; Joshua 12:3), the Sea of Gennesaret (Luke 5:1), the Sea of Tiberias (John 6:1; 21:1), it’s sometimes referred to as simply as “the lake.” Nestled among the hills of Galilee, the Sea of Galilee is some 700 feet below sea level and because of its location is subject to sudden and violent storms as east winds blow in cool air which then collide with the warm air that covers the water of the sea (https://www.thattheworldmayknow.com/sea-of-galilee-geography). It is one of these storms that is recorded in today’s Gospel lesson.
The image before us is of a painting entitled, “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee,” painted by Rembrandt in 1633. Measuring more than four feet wide by five feet high, it is Rembrandt’s only seascape. The painting was housed in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston until it was stolen on March 18, 1990, along with a number of other paintings, by thieves disguised as police officers. In 2013 the FBI announced that they knew who was responsible for the crime, but the paintings, including Rembrandt’s masterpiece, have yet to be recovered. This is still considered to be the biggest art theft in our nation’s history, and until such time as the paintings are recovered, the museum plans to continue displaying the empty frames of the stolen paintings (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Storm_on_the_Sea_of_Galilee).
Rembrandt captures the intensity of the raging storm at that moment when the disciples come and wake up Jesus who is asleep on a cushion in the stern of the boat: “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:38). The close-up reveals the intensity of the disciples’ emotions in the midst of the storm, including one who appears to be seasick over the side of the boat. In the turbulence and chaos of what is going on, they feel like they are going down. The words of the psalmist seem to be fulfilled: “then the flood would have swept us away, the torrent would have gone over us; then over us would have gone the raging waters” (Psalm 124:4-5). Sometimes in life, the storm is out there, as it was in today’s Gospel lesson, but sometimes the storm is in here – within our hearts and minds. Worries and burdens over loved ones, health concerns, marital and family problems, financial difficulties, job and workplace challenges. Like any external storm of nature, that internal storm can sweep over us, and we feel as though we will surely be destroyed. Like those disciples, we, too, cry out in fear and desperation: “Teacher, don’t you care that I am perishing? Jesus, don’t you care that I am going down?” At times, we, too, feel as though Jesus is asleep and unaware of what is going on in our lives. Where is our peace in the storm?
The closing words of today’s psalm remind us: “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 124:8). Jesus is both Son of God and Son of man. Everything ascribed to God as Creator and Lord of all, we ascribe by faith to Jesus as well. He is the One who has “shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed” (Job 38:8-11). The winds and waves are obedient to his voice, and in place of raging chaos and destruction, with Jesus there is great calm and blessed peace. Sometimes the Lord chooses to calm the storm, as he did on the Sea of Galilee, but at other times, the Lord chooses to calm his child in the midst of the storm. Instead of bestowing outward calm and peace by stilling the storm, the Lord Jesus may choose to bestow inward calm and peace to those who love him. This great blessing enables God’s children to endure, to hold on, to persevere, to remain steadfast, even in the midst of the storm, enabling the child of God to say in faith: “And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
In the midst of life’s storms, in our human weakness and frailty, the Lord Jesus may need to correct us in order that he might strengthen us, as he did with his disciples after the stilling of the storm: “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” (Mark 4:40). Let it be our constant prayer that our faith, even if it be as small as a grain of mustard seed (Mark 4:30-32), may by the power of the Holy Spirit, grow and mature through God’s gifts of his life-giving Word and Sacraments, enabling us to “remain steadfast, immovable, abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). How will we answer that closing question of the disciples: “Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?” (Mark 4:41). In faith, let us answer with all boldness and confidence: this is Jesus, true God and true man, who lived and died and rose again that I may be his own in body, mind, and spirit. Having loved me so much that he died for me, I will now live for him, trusting that no storm in this life can take me from him, and that “nothing in all of creation can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38b). That is peace in the storm. Thanks be to God. Amen.